Animus

Courage begins by trusting oneself.” – The Clone Wars

 

An Expression

In France people often the use the word “Courage” or “Bonne Courage” to encourage a friend or an acquaintance that is facing a challenge large or small. It is not a word which is used in the English language as an informal expression of one’s hope that another will succeed or prevail. We will rarely hear someone say to another “Be Brave” or “Have Courage” as if we were saying “Good Luck” or “Have a nice Day”. In France it is used often and is meant to remind one of the virtues of courage and its universal application in all aspects of life. It is a reminder that self trust is the root of courage.

 

A Virtue

Courage was considered by the Stoics as one of the most important virtues that a person could attain. Along with wisdom, justice and temperance (self-control), courage was considered essential to living a good life. Perhaps with the adoption of the Stoic philosophy by the Romans and its eventual influence on Christianity the virtue of courage became embedded in the Romantic languages such as French.

 

Heart

The Latin word for courage is “cor” which roughly translates to “heart”. When people say, “He had the heart of a Lion” they mean he had courage which was exemplary. More than courage, the person had “heart”. “Heart” often refers to the inner resolve and spirit of a person which courage is a part of. A person may have the courage to face a fight and enter a ring to face an adversary but “heart” keeps him in the fight even when the odds are stacked against him. The person is not being reckless or suicidal; the person has the self trust to carry on past any fears and doubts.

 

Nihil tam acerbum est in quo non æquus animus solatium inveniat”

“There is nothing so disagreeable, that a patient mind can not find some solace for it”. – Seneca the Younger

 

Animus

The Latin word “Animus” was used to describe something more than “heart”. Animus roughly translated to the virtues of spirit, mind and courage. Animus entails the development of human mind, body and spirit and the transcendence of the human consciousness to higher levels.

Carl Jung believed that the masculine Animus and the feminine Anima are part of the collective unconscious in humans, transcending the personal psyche. Jung believed that humans evolved along a trajectory which culminates at transcendence, the expression of the rational soul. Seneca also described Animus to mean the rational soul expressed as the reasoned mind.

 

Anti-Ego

At the highest level Animus is the antithesis of the ego. The Ancient Greeks and Romans recognized that the ego was the greatest challenge that people faced. The root of all fears and doubts stem from the ego. The ego overrides reason and better judgement.

Cor (Heart) is needed to overcome that fear and arrive at a state of Animus which breaks us free from the grip of the ego. By finding Animus we overcome the barriers that we have built to stop us getting where we want to go.

 

Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it” – Mark Twain

 

Warrior Spirit

The Ancient Greeks and Romans considered Animus to be exemplified by the “warrior spirit” of duty, sacrifice, loyalty, honor and courage. When a warrior died in battle they had achieved the greatest feat for their nation. The Ancients believed that a warrior slain on the battlefield held an esteemed place in the underworld of the dead.

Even today we revere and honor our fallen heroes and use words such as courage, bravery and selflessness to describe them. Soldiers still use the slogan “Until Valhalla” in reference to the glory assigned to fighting with spirit and dying with honor. They are not fanatics, they trust themselves and their comrades beside them.

 

The Seeker

The purpose of the “Heroes Journey” is for the one “called to adventure” to find their internal Animus by overcoming the trials and challenges that stand before them. By venturing in to the dark and the unknown one arrives at light and knowledge. By sinking in to despair one finds hope. Through defeats and disappointments one finds the strength to overcome and the will to continue on to victory. The story has been told and retold through the myths and stories of the ages. We see it clearly in the saga of Star Wars. These stories inspire us.

 

“Bonus animus in mala re, dimidium est mali”

Courage in danger is half the battle.” – Plautus

 

Resolve

You do not need to be a hero on a life and death mission to discover your own Animus. I once thought the only way to truly test myself and find honor was by going to war. One does not need to do either to live a good and meaningful life. Life will test our courage and strength in many ways. It may be as simple as practicing principles even when others push the boundaries and provoke us. Staying sober is a daily and sometimes hourly test of resolve. We can express Animus in everything we do.

 

Bonne Courage

The French regularly say “Bonne Courage” as an offering of support to someone who is facing a challenge or difficult time. It is an odd expression to the English ear but it makes perfect sense. What the French are saying is much more than “Bonne Chance – Good Luck”. “Courage” is a reminder that everyone has an inner and sacred Animus that resides within. If one has the self trust to find heart and dig deep enough they will find it there and it will give them all the strength they need to prevail.

 

Gratus animus est una virtus non solum maxima, sed etiam mater virtutum onmium reliquarum

A courageous heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Hero

“I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day” – Bowie

The Hero’s Journey

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars he based the story on the mythical Hero as described by Joseph Campbell. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” describes the “Hero’s Journey”, a narrative monomyth which has existed since the dawn of story telling. The Monomyth follows the story of one who answers the call for adventure, the Hero archetype. Departing home the Hero encounters and overcomes the fear of the unknown and sometimes with a mentor learns the path to overcoming challenges and obstacles that lay ahead. Towards the middle of the story the Hero meets resistance and facing peril must overcome  an enemy or nemesis and finding strength and the help of others is able gain the prize.

The story continues and we think the Hero is safely home but encounters even greater challenges that bar the way. Unable to escape the Hero battles in a climactic struggle. Victorious at last  the Hero claims the final prize and discovers a revelation that restores the balance. The Hero is transformed and returns home or continues the journey.

The “Hero’s Journey” can be seen as a metaphor for life. We all face similar milestones in our personal Journey through Life. In recovery, we know the path quite well.

The Hero

People have always been inspired by the Hero. Legends and Myths are full of them. Since the Babylonian tale of Gilgamesh written in 18 century BC, the human story has included Odysseus, Hercules, David and Jason. Our contemporary fiction is full of them and include unlikely heroes like Harry Potter, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker and Jyn, Rey and Finn. Each of the characters became swept up in events greater than themselves. They  became accidental heroes who went far beyond what they believed they could achieve for the greater good. Their stories followed the classic “Hero’s Journey” as described by Campbell. The Hero provides humanity with an example for others to follow. We carry our Heroes on shields and decorate them with awards and medals.

No Ordinary Hero

Sometimes the Heroes of the world are right in front of us but we don’t even recognize them. These are not like the Heroes in the Ancient or Modern Sagas. They have committed themselves when action was needed with no time to think or plan. The bystander who jumps in to perform CPR, the one who instinctively jumps in to a swollen river to rescue a drowning child and the person who races in to a burning building to pull out survivors are the ones we sometimes hear about in the news. They remind us that there are still people out there who are willing to risk their lives for others. We think their acts are exceptional and rare while in fact they are in most people. The instinctive need to help and to protect and preserve life. It’s in our DNA.

We often hail our sporting achievers as “heroes” yet what have they done other than win a title, medals or a trophy, usually for great monetary reward and fame? Society tends to overlook underpaid and overworked care givers like Paramedics, Nurses, public health care Doctors as well as Police Officers and Fire and Rescue for their daily heroic deeds. Volunteers who dedicate their time and money to helping the poor, looking after the environment or taking care of animals are rarely considered “Heroes”. Not many people would count School Teachers, Hospice Workers, Aid Workers and Volunteers as Heroes. Soldiers are treated as “Heroes” and lauded for their military feats in some wars and derided or condemned for fighting others.

The Classic Hero as described by Joseph Campbell is a rare gem and one that primarily exists in literature and movies. Real Hero’s are are actually everywhere.

The Accidental Hero

Luke Skywalker was a hero of my childhood and for me had all the ideal traits that made such. I could also relate to Luke Skywalker on a personal level as I had also suffered loss. Skywalker gave many kids a dream that they could reach for the skies and achieve incredible feats if they only believed. Not long ago someone pointed out that Luke was no Hero. Why I asked? Well, he had destroyed an artificial planet with many thousands of lives. This “atrocity” had not ended the war, in many ways it had extended it and the untold suffering it caused.

The Death Star was moments away from ending the Rebellion and the war but instead it was destroyed. The Empire suffered a crushing military defeat with the loss of important Admirals and the ultimate weapon of deterrence. The war raged across the galaxy for years after and so did the death and the destruction. My Friend kind of had a point.

My Friend also pointed out that Luke Skywalker was not only against the established rule of law and active in an illegal Rebellion but he was indoctrinated in to an ancient religion. This religious belief compelled him to destroy the Death Star and continued to drive him to carry out attacks in the war and eventually topple it. Does this not sound at least a little like a terrorist?

The Modern Hero Dilemma

I thought about the many recent conflicts I had become acquainted. In these wars I had taken sides. One side was “Right” and the other “Wrong”. More than once I had called people I knew “Heroes”. They had traveled to Syria to join the Kurds and fight ISIL, an extremist and brutal regime. While I believe my friends to be Freedom Fighters and “Heroes”, other people, many decent and intelligent, called them “Terrorists” or “Criminals”. It made me realize that the word “Hero” can be a little ambiguous at times. In fact not everyone can agree on what, let alone who, a Hero is.

Then  what is a Hero? How would we define it? Many Real World Jedi have their own definition of what a Hero is and they diverge as much as people in any other part of society. This is a Jedi Philosophy Blog so I will take the words of Joseph Campbell to help define what a Hero is here:

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.“- Joseph Campbell

Then that would mean that anyone who has died for a cause that he or she considered bigger than themselves fits the definition of a Hero…Obviously this cause problems as it would firmly validate the phrase “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”. The cliché in fact contradicts itself as we know that no terrorist can be a Hero and no Hero can be a terrorist then neither can exist as they cancel each other out. To me a Friend in Syria is a Hero fighting for Freedom from tyranny, to many people in Turkey and  the Arab world he is a Terrorist as he happens to be fighting under a Kurdish Flag. Being a Hero can be complicated.

The Journey

As a recovering alcoholic I know that things never appear to be black and white. Every ideal and bias that we hold is a product of our Ego. The human psyche pushes many of us to embark on the “Heroes Journey”. In a perfect world there would be no need for Freedom Fighters or Terrorists. Heroes on the other hand, we need those angels like the Paramedics, Nurses, Cops and Soldiers who put others before themselves. The recovering Alcoholic in a 12 Step Meeting who comforts and consoles a newcomer who is at the end of his wits is a Hero. Each of us can through simple act of kindness and love in our daily lives also be Heroes.

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” –  Gandalf “Lord of the Rings”

Marcus Aurelius admonishes us to stop “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one” There are five common traits found in a Hero. They are courage, selflessness, humility, patience and caring. These are the virtues which the Stoics like Aurelius found so important if one was to achieve the “good life”. They are also the virtues that a Jedi was expected to demonstrate consistently. The 12 Steps require all five virtues for recovery to be built on a solid foundation:

Courage

Courage is when a person does something in spite of their Fear.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear” – Mark Twain.

Selflessness

Selflessness is doing something for others without expecting anything in return, indeed often with personal sacrifice.

selflessness is the only way for progress and prosperity” – The Bhagavad Gita

Humility

Humility is acting in a way that shows you respect yourself but never place yourself above others to look down.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less” – CS Lewis

 

Patience

Patience is being able to accept that things to happen at their own pace even when we wished they wouldn’t. Good things do come to those that wait.

Patience is bitter but it’s fruit is sweet” – Aristotle

 

Caring

Caring is showing to others the kindness and concern that they deserve. Caring is in the little acts that we do every day.

Caring The simple act of caring is heroic” – Edward Albert

 

Can we be all of these things? Can we be the Hero that we are meant to be? We can be Heroes not in the big causes that we take up but in the simple every day acts of life.

Bigger Fish

There is always a bigger fish” – Qui-Gon Jinn “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”

In the scene in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”, Qui-Gon Jinn and Ob-Wan Kenobi are pursued by an underwater creature. Jar Jar Binks, is in fits of terror while the Jedi seem unconcerned by the looming menace. They seem more annoyed at the bumbling Gungan  they are stuck with. As the reptilian carnivore closes in it is ambushed by some vast underwater behemoth that rises from the deep and swiftly devoured. Qui-Gon Jinn remarks nonchalantly “Well, there is always a bigger fish”. It’s a forgettable scene but it’s a memorable quote and is one I use often in applying my philosophy for life.

Fact 1: No matter how big and tough someone thinks he is there is always some one out there who will better him.

Never think for a moment that you are invincible and that if you hold the title for world champion someone is not going to come along one day and knock you off your pedestal and claim the crown. It need not be a title or the claim to being the best at anything, even becoming over confident can eventually lead to cocky self-assuredness, arrogance and finally complacency. This would be a fatal mistake. For someone in recovery they are all red flags which can ultimately lead to relapse. Humility as a virtue is vital to sustained recovery.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Saint Augustine

Fight Smart

The only wars that are truly won are those that were resolved before a shot was fired. I personally would not invite my addiction outside for a fight. I might win the first round but eventually pound for pound it will mop the floor with my face.  So I won’t dance with the Devil.

By fighting we leave ourselves open to being beaten, especially if we lead by the chin by being arrogant. Regardless of how recovered I think I am I know that the best way to win a fight is not to be there in the first place. I avoid situations that lead me in to trouble, I recognize the red flags as they appear and if required I have a tool bag of spiritual and mental skills I can use when needed. I fight smart.

The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.” Marcus Aurelius

It is better to treat life like a wrestling match than a dance or in the case of an alcoholic, a bout of bare knuckle brawling. Trying to fight life through brute force only wears us out and half the time you are beating yourself. Fools think they can dance through life. Realists realize that life is more like wrestling. Life sweeps us up, knocks us down and tries to pin us. We manage to break the hold and flip things over getting the upper hand until the next time we are thrown off balance. The trick is to be prepared mentally and physically for the things that tip us over.

 

Fact 2: No matter how big or bad a problem seems to be it could always be worse.

The next time something annoys you or you are faced with a vexing problem ask yourself “could this be any worse”? The truth is of course it could be. Things can always be worse than they are. Take a moment to collect your thoughts. Look around you and notice the things that are going right in your life. Realize that the world is still there, society still functions, the sun will rise in the morning to another day. What ever is bothering you now will pass.

Sobriety does not give us immunity from pain but it does give us the opportunity to respond to the vicissitudes of life in a sane and appropriate manner.

Man is disturbed not by things, but by the views he takes of them.” – Epictetus

Gratitude is a powerful force in your life and so is the ability to perceive and prepare for the “worst case scenario”. Negative visualization is one practice I use often to readjust my perception of “problems”. When I think about how bad some people have it I am reminded of how lucky I am. Things could always be worse.

Imagine the Worst

Negative visualization was used by the Stoics. Seneca reminds us that we should remember that our life can end at any moment and we should appreciate life to the full. Epictetus advises that when we kiss our children good night we should remember that it may be the last kiss. Children can be taken away. All things are transitory and impermanent and fate can change in an instant so we are reminded to savor every moment we spend with our loved ones.

Society compels us to live hedonistic lives, the book “The Secret” teaches us to use positive visualization to get the things we want, stating that the University will provide riches and opportunities if we simply claim them. Negative visualization teaches us to want what we have and appreciate more what we get.

The trouble with trying to get the Universe to give us things through positive visualization is we get really annoyed when it doesn’t fall out of the sky in to our lap. Worse it fosters a culture of entitlement and a ride on the hedonistic treadmill, we get what we want and then soon growing tired of it we want more and more.

Negative visualization teaches us not to take anything for granted especially our sobriety.

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” – Unknown

Jonah and the Big Fish

Let’s use Jonah as an example in keeping with the giant fish theme. Jonah was sent on a mission by God which he didn’t want to accept because it was “too hard” or it didn’t agree with his plans. Too bad Jonah these things pick you. Displeased, God tossed Jonah about on an angry sea before the reluctant prophet was thrown over board by his terrified companions. Jonah was then swallowed by a behemoth and held for three days in the innards before being unceremoniously spewed up on the beach of ancient Israel for good measure. Then it’s a long walk to Nineveh where he has to deliver the news that the entire city is about to be destroyed by divine wrath which is certain to make him as popular as a bacon sandwich at a Bar Mitzvah.

Things do turn out well though; Jonah gets his second wind and gets the population of Nineveh to repent sparing them from annihilation. Having done a great job he gets a whole chapter dedicated to him in the Bible and almost everyone has heard the story.

Jonah should have just had faith to being with and done what he was told in the first place and cut all the fuss, he should have gone straight to Nineveh. Instead of being a sour puss Jonah should have taken a leaf from the Athenians and used negative visualization to harden up for the worst case scenario and then worked for the best outcome. The flip side of course is that his reticence taught the rest of us an important lesson about accountability and duty.

 

Fact 3: The biggest and best that you think you can achieve might be wrong. You can always do better if you want. There is always “bigger fish to fry”.

We define our own “impossible”. If we say we can’t do something we are probably right, if we say we can we are probably right. Recovery has taught me that I can achieve more than I gave myself credit for. I never imagined I would be three months sober let alone 5 years. If I can do it so can anyone else.

The idiom does not only apply to recovery but in all other aspects of my life as well. Whether it is setting goals at work, in training or in my personal life I set the bar a little higher. I try to work in a zone of Eustress.

Good Stress, Bad Stress

Under stress is where we are not challenged. We are simply coasting along and usually accepting mediocre as good enough. If we put in average effort we are going to end up with average results but more usually none at all.

Half measures availed us nothing” – Big Book p59.

Distress is the opposite, we are at the limit of our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual capacity and sometimes beyond. Performance starts to fall apart and effort is non-sustainable. In early recovery I went in to hyper mode and over loaded myself. This of course led to distress and almost a relapse. “Easy does it” means to do it but do it easy, which of course means Eustress!

Eustress is the zone in between under-stress and distress. It is the zone of optimal performance where we are challenged but within our capacity and we can improve over time.

Set Goals

I work towards self improvement. In physical training for example the only way to make gains is to increase the load or the reps a little every time, introducing new exercises also helps, mixing it up. Sticking to the same routine will work for a while but soon you will simply plateau out and get bored and you won’t make gains.

When setting goals that push you, allow yourself to recover and then ratchet it up a bit more. If you plateau, back off a bit and then hit it again. Without rushing but with a slow and steady pace you will see improvement. New opportunities and bigger goals come in to view and the next thing you know you are doing things you thought were impossible a few weeks or months prior. Put the effort in and see the results. Nothing worthwhile is gained without hard work. Fortune does not fall out of the sky as promised in “The Secret”.

This formula works for training, learning a language, overcoming fears, dealing with anxiety and depression and almost anything else where the goal is gradual improvement over time. Always speak to a professional health advisor before starting a new program.

Oh and if you fish you will be very familiar that there is no such thing as “the biggest fish” only the “biggest catch of the day”. There is always tomorrow and if you hook Jar Jar Binks, throw him back in.

Patience

“A great leap forward sometimes requires two steps back” – Obi wan-Kenobi

The uncommon virtue

Patience is a virtue and is often viewed as an ideal Jedi trait. The calm and passive Obi wan-Kenobi deliberate in his words and actions and the meditative Yoda an epitome of patience whether consulting with fellow members of the Jedi Council on Coruscant, discussing strategy in a battle briefing or training Luke Skywalker in the ways of the force on Dagobah show the merit of the virtue. Jedi were patient, it was in their nature and in their training to show patience regardless of the circumstances.

Often the Jedi could also be impulsive and reckless wanting to rush off in to battle. Quinlan Vos was not your usual Jedi and is seen as a maverick by Obi wan-Kenobi in the hunt for Ziro the Hutt. Quinlan Vos later joins Asajj Ventress in a plot to assassinate Count Dooku where his impulsive nature eventually leads him to make choices that run counter to the Jedi Path. Luke Skywalker is also impatient throughout his adventures barely reined in by the advice of Obi wan Kenobi and later Yoda. Anakin on the other hand is the least patient of all the Jedi and while his insistence for direct action all the time and doing things his way gets results during the Clone Wars it does come at a price which in the end costs him everything.

“Patience Master Patience” – Ahsoka Tano to Anakin in the Clone Wars “Blue Shadow Virus”

Patience was never a virtue of mine and it is rare among alcoholics and other addicts. Once we want something and our mind is fixed on it we have a single minded purpose that ignores the consequences. Our thirst for whatever is desired overrides reason and logic. We cannot be told to wait and to stop us from getting what we want is akin to being prevented oxygen. Our lack of patience extends to people, places and things.

One thing to another

We grow tired of our relationships or we are never satisfied with the people in our lives always demanding more from them and often more than they can give or are prepared to give. Our jobs become a revolving door affair, soon impatient with co-workers, conditions or the lack of recognition in our many talents we either quit or force our employers to remove us. Some of us are constantly on the move seeking the “geographic solution” and then become quickly bored or disillusioned with new places and situations after a short honeymoon. Our possessions no matter how greatly desired or paid for soon lose their shine and we want to move on to new things. Never content, never satisfied, least of all with ourselves.

In some ways the lack of patience is a good thing. For example it can drive one to succeed and arrive at their goals sooner. An impatient man is rarely satisfied with mediocrity and demands better. As an alcoholic my impatient nature led me to some major successes in my life but not without cost to relationships, principle, pride and health. I burnt people along the way as well as bridges and compromised on my integrity time and again until I was morally bankrupt.

Stop, Think, Assess and Rectify

Patience is a virtue and it is hard won and easily lost but every moment we live in patience is a moment lived well as it allows you to enter the flow of life and for once not fight against the stream. Time slows down and we start to connect with others and find our true inner self. Being sober has taught me a lot about patience; to slow down and allow things to happen as they will without forcing them along especially in recovery and with my relationships. To live and let live and to “Let Go and Let God”.

Doctors are correct when they advise Patients to be patient with their healing, that is because nature (including your body, mind and soul) require time to heal when injured or sick. Oddly enough the word Patient comes from the Latin “to suffer” and to have patience no less means to show calm endurance and overcome base impulses to react, even if it means to suffer in silence to do so.

As the sense of urgency and impulsive instinct to act or speak rises today, take a step back as Obi wan suggested to Anakin and take a moment to consider your next step. Would you raise your voice in impatience at a child who doesn’t understand? Do you run a red light because you want to get home to put your feet up? Do you make enemies at work by being rude and impatient because things aren’t going as you want?

You rarely have to react in an instant to what is around you and things can wait. There is no need to get upset or angry at slow traffic because doing so will not make it move any faster. Time will move at its own pace and what better time to spend practicing the virtue of patience. Slow down, be calm, at peace, passive and let the Force in the moment flow through you.